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Posted at 3:15 PM ET, 02/25/2011

Senator discovers asbestos in his legislative office

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Workers discovered asbestos at the Virginia General Assembly Building this week, the clerk of the state Senate confirmed Friday.

After a windy night, Sen. William Wampler (R-Bristol) reported finding a chalky white substance on his windowsill. Department of General Services workers were called in, along with an environmental contractor, who ran tests and confirmed the presence of the toxic substance, said Clerk Susan Schaar.

She said they determined that the asbestos had seeped into the office from above the office's ceiling tiles, emerging through a crack between the ceiling and the window.

Wampler's office was sealed from the public and thoroughly scrubbed, as was the office of his legislative aide. Schaar said subsequent testing indicated that the air was safe in and around the office.

"We have been advised through [the environmental contractors] and DGS that the air quality is at permissible levels allowed by the EPA," she said.

Workers have long known about the presence of asbestos on the west half of Virginia's General Assembly Building, where lawmakers have had their offices and legislative committee meeting rooms since 1978. The 400,000-square-foot building previously housed an insurance firm.

The Senate has repeatedly appropriated money in its budget to replace the aging structure, which also has a leaky roof, electrical and ventilation trouble and an outdated fire alarm system

The House of Delegates has always rejected the idea, insisting that the state has more important needs than spending millions to replace a building used primarily by legislators for two months of the year.

The two sides are still arguing about the state budget, including whether to spend money on the GAB. House members have mocked a Senate proposal to set aside money for the project, insisting that senators want to use taxpayer money to build a legislative Taj Mahal.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | February 25, 2011; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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